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Justice Department blind to Virginia voter fraud

In a May 17 commencement speech at Morgan State University, Attorney General Eric Holder once again dismissed the problem of voter fraud as being inconsequential. Efforts to curb it, he claimed, are merely attempts to deprive minorities of their right to vote.

It’s not just that Holder persists in ignoring the many cases of such fraud that have been documented by historians and journalists. His entire Justice Department studiously ignores evidence of possible fraud and steadfastly refuses to do anything about it. I know this from personal experience.

From 2010 to 2013, I served on the Fairfax County Electoral Board in Virginia. In August 2011, we notified the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia in Alexandria, as well as the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department (which coordinates election crime prosecutions) in Washington, of possible voter fraud by non-citizens.

In checking with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the board had discovered 278 registered voters who, when they got their driver’s licenses, had told the DMV that they were not U.S. citizens. Before we canceled any of these registrations, we gave all of the voters the opportunity to confirm their citizenship. None of them did so. Almost half of them (117) had not only registered to vote, they had in fact voted in state and federal elections.

“Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses,” the handbook written by the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section, notes that falsely claiming to be a citizen on a voter registration form violates three different federal statutes: 42 U.S.C. §1973gg-10(2), 18 U.S.C. §1015(f), and 18 U.S.C. §911. Each of these violations is a felony, subject to imprisonment of up to three or five years.

As the handbook further explains, voting by a non-citizen violates 18 U.S.C. §611 and is a strict liability offense. In other words, it “does not require proof that the offender was aware that citizenship is a prerequisite to voting.” Violations are misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in prison.

The Electoral Board’s letter to the Justice Department seemingly disappeared into a black hole. There were no phone calls, no emails, and no inquiries from the U.S. attorney’s office or from the Public Integrity Section.

In comparison to some of the very complex cases that federal prosecutors have to investigate, investigating these cases would have been easy. With copies of the voter registration form and the voting history in hand, prosecutors would then simply have to verify whether the individual was a citizen at the time of registration or voting.

But the Justice Department apparently had no interest in investigating almost 300 cases of possible felony violations of federal law.

Known for extremely close elections, Virginia is a state where even a small amount of fraud could make the difference — such as the 2013 attorney general’s race, where Democrat Mark Herring was declared the winner by fewer than 1,000 votes out of 2.2 million cast, or the 2005 attorney general’s race, which was decided by fewer than 400 votes.

But Holder finds all of that to be inconsequential.

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.


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